Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pre-Christmas Visit to Eataly, NYC

Every six months, or so, I get together with my best friend.  We have lunch together and then spend the day doing something interesting.  Sometimes it is shopping, walking around NYC, or lounging on the beach.  This past meetup was in Manhattan.  Andrew was joining us and he really wanted to include Eataly in the day.  My friend was coming into New York from Westchester County and we were coming from Suffolk County.  We met at Penn Station (NYCs - in fact USAs largest train station).  We had a brilliant lunch at Tracks inside of the station.  It has become my go-to bar and grill in NYC.  It has fab food and shellfish (crazy good oysters) and a huge bar that serves Penfolds as a house wine.  This is a comfortable place for Andrew and I.  The staff, especially Liam (best bartender EVER) make us feel at home, even though we are in a place that throngs of humanity pass through every day.

My friend had a Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the beef chili.  Andrew also had the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and a wonderful warm bowl of New England Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl. (a favorite) I had a beautiful Blue Cheese Burger and a Shrimp Cocktail.  We all had Sweet Potato Fries.  We enjoyed this feast with Pepperwood Pinot Noir and Penfolds Chardonnay.

The food was awesome but the point of the day was the companionship.  We talked about everything that occupied our minds.  We even had a neighbor at the bar who seemed fascinated by our animated talk. It might have been the fact that my friend is very attractive.  My friend would kill for me (and vice-versa) and she got animated when we were discussing an incident where someone hurt my feelings.  After lunch we walked to Eataly - a short walk  to 23rd and 5th.

I had read about Eataly and was excited to experience it.  Andrew and I have been huge fans of Mario Batali since we've been together (16 years).  The best meal we've ever eaten was at Mario's restaurant Babbo.  What a special memory.  We were all blown away when we stepped into one of the many entry doors.  This is not just an Italian grocery.  It is a wine shop - a wine bar - a restaurant space - a pizza place and a learning center.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  Andrew in fact, had to hold me back from buying everything in sight. 
We quickly became fascinated with the fish mongers' display.  One fish caught my attention and I was told that it was a Spanish Mackeral.  So shiny and fresh.  In fact, everything looked perfect.
The shellfish selection was breathtaking.  In a good way for Andrew and I and a bad way for my friend.  She doesn't eat shellfish - but we noticed that she was also fascinated.  We laughed about the razor clams who looked like they were trying to escape their shells.  Next time I am there, I am bringing home enough shellfish for a feast!

While checking out the salumi/cheese area we were trying to remember what were the words for butcher in Italian and French.  I said  "I forgot most of the French I learned.  One of the only words I remember is Fenetre, which means 'window'. And that's exactly what happened to my French - it went out the window."  The Cheese Monger laughed out loud.  That made me happy.

The meat counter was my favorite part of the experience.  They had EVERYTHING!  I chose a whole rabbit.  I wanted a wild boar roast but I was talked out of it.  The butcher wrapped my rabbit and held it for me until I was ready to go to checkout.  Next time, I will ask the butcher to quarter the rabbit, just to make it easier on me during the prep time. 
If we hadn't had a few glasses of wine at lunch we might have been tempted by the Italian beer and bottled water section.  If I lived in Manhattan, this might become my go-to grocery.  Plus, an added bonus is that, like many customers attested to, you can walk around with your shopping cart and a big glass of Italian wine in hand.  What a way to shop!

There was an attractive wine bar as well as a restaurant and a pizza area.  If we hadn't eaten like Kings at Tracks we might have been tempted to sit down and Manga!

So, it's not Barnes and Nobles but it is a font of knowledge of all things Batali and Bastianich. Our heros!  Strolling around this VERY busy store, we learned about each other - even more than we even knew.  It is a place that - despite the crowds - makes you feel comfortable.  My friend had lived in Italy and some of this experience brought back authentic memories for her.  It made Andrew and I want to travel to Italy.

I was looking for something to cook with my rabbit.  I found mini brussells sprouts (from Brussells!) and a loaf of multigrain bread.  I was ready!  And actually, the prices, in general are fair and fine for the New York Tri-State area.

I did not get into the wine shop.  I was in an expansive mood and we were afraid that I would go crazy and buy too much! 

And here is the final result!  I made Spanish Style Rabbit with tiny Brussells Spouts, Cipollini Onions and Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes - with fresh multi-grain bread!

And that's not even the best part!  The best is getting together with my dear friend and catching up on our lives and stories.  I love being with people that I love.

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